Wednesday, September 26, 2012

CEDO 565 Week 6:

I've never really sought out to be a leader but have always been comfortable doing the work. I've made plans in my head and some partially on paper (or silicon) for a few different business ideas I've had. I can see more now that if I'd ever move on any of my grand schemes, I'd have to be a great leader for it to be successful. Though the text was primarily about being a teacher leader in a K-12 setting, the principles are the same.

I don't know if my definition of leadership has changed but my understanding of it has. I didn't really think about it until now, but my position of Teacher Trainer in the Taiwan ESL school was a teacher leader role, though a formal one and not a more informal one as discussed in the book. At the time, I did a lot of the things mentioned in the text to facilitate improvement but not necessarily system wide change. Thinking about it now, I suppose I could have taken a more leadership role within the Teacher Trainer staff/community and discussed and initiated changes. It wasn't in my blood back then.

My opinion of my leadership potential has probably changed mostly because of the role of Administrator I've had for the past 2-3 years. I've learned a lot about clerical/administrative processes and procedures but have not either taken or been given larger "leadership" responsibilities and tasks. Although my knowledge of what is necessary at the "top" is greater, through this course I have procured a larger toolbox with a larger hammer to nail the role of leader.

I haven't had time to do a lot of formal anything with teachers or students at my school. My butt and brain get more tired than my feet. However, in thinking about some of the things that the book has been talking about I realized that there are things that I can and should do even in my limited capacity of workhorse administrator.

Yesterday, a K5 student who is constantly in the office because of [ insert behavior here ] was in the office again in the afternoon. The teacher however pointed out to me that he had had a really good morning. I made it a point to praise and commend him on the morning and encouraged him to keep it up and to try for a whole day. I'm not out on the floor a lot but I do travel through the school to do this or get that. Today I made it a point to tell a lot of the teachers that I want to assume the role of "good" cop. Whenever you see me, tell me something good that an otherwise difficult student has done and I'll praise and encourage them. A good morning or a good afternoon, a good period or a good assignment, whatever. This is one of the little things that I can do in passing to initiate positive change.

I do agree with the book about improving education from within. Yes, if everyone picks up a piece and puts it in place after turning and twisting it a bit to make it fit. Or perhaps picking up a piece and throwing it away. However, external, personal, societal and other factors are a large piece that factor in as context. Physical and intellectual resources and support that come from outside also play a large role for improvement as well. Change from within can only happen when the other pieces fit in place as well.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

CEDO 565 Week 5: The Change Process

The past two weeks during class we played a simulation game that revolved around the Change for Improvement Process in a K-12 setting. First off, playing the simulation online was a very good experience and gave a good example of what can be done with an online class. Second, the simulation was actually fun to play as well as being very insightful and informational about the change process. The frustrations were real. The successes gave us the feeling of "Finally! Results!" Having the end of game wrap up example sheet that outlines the process without playing the game wouldn't have been as enlightening. Looking at it now after playing the game I understand much better about how the change process can occur successfully. Substituting a High School English Department Chair with Vice President of Marketing you can adapt the process to business or other institutions.

Some rights reserved By JWILLOME

I've not been involved in a change for improvement process before. My present workplace is a very small private school and does not have many of the ingredients of the average K-12 public school system or even larger private school institutions. Many of the traditional elements of organization and of change just don't apply to where I am now. Never mind a thousand other contexts, conditions and variables, there are elements of the change process that I could use at my school, difficult as it may be.

Throughout most of this program, with the course of study and work we have done, I've been able to adapt it if necessary to fit my present situation. This leadership course however has been very frustrating to me because so many of the items covered and discussed do not apply in one context or another at my school. Frustrating also because the topics we are talking about are the things most needed at my school but the reality of setting them in place lies on Jupiter somewhere.

If and when I secure a position somewhere else, I feel I am better prepared to take a position of leadership for change. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CEDO 565 Week 4: Teamwork & Change

This whole leadership thing is so hard to talk about in relation to my present employ. If you've picked up on anything I've talked about over the last year and a half you should have some idea. Rather, I'll talk about two contrasting change events that I wrote about for our Analysis of Change and Planning for Change assignment.

In both instances, I was in a leadership role, but of differing capacities and level of power. Both took place at a private English Language school in Taiwan.

Planning for Change:
Description: The addition of over 1000 new lesson plans and activities for 11 levels of English conversation classes for ESL teachers and students at Taiwan’s largest adult private English Language School (16 locations). I was the technical and writer’s team supervisor.

This project was headed by my best friend of many years and colleague. His ideas, decisions and leadership were well respected by our boss and he was/is an effective leader. This project was his idea and he pretty much had free reign with it after approval by our boss, the company president.

Because my friend was a good planner and leader, this project was very successful. Working together as a team on this we all collaborated, discussed, modified and helped each other. Decisions were a group effort because our experience and input were valued and respected.

In the end, our schools got a lot of new material as well as awareness and training. Teachers and students at these schools are most likely still using some of these materials.

Analysis of Change:
Description: Planning, Development, Preparation and (near) Implementation of a Blended ESL program at the same English Language School in Taiwan. I was director of the program.

This project began almost immediately after the above project was ending. I gathered many of the same team members together to work on this project. Our work as a team followed the same general course as the previous project. I learned from my friend how to make these things work.

The difference was that the curriculum project was headed by an effective leader whereas this blended learning project was ultimately headed by our boss, the company president. Similar to my present situation, he micro-managed many aspects of the project. He also was ill informed about technical and pedagogical issues related to the project. He often refused to listen to and accept sound advice but rather acted unilaterally according to his whims.

The president's method of leading and managing the project delayed, postponed and ultimately resulted in the program never taking off, wasting a lot of time, effort and money.


I'm glad that I have had the opportunity to work on, with and lead successful teams. It makes me frustrated now where I am powerless to lead more effectively because of the context of leadership higher up. A positive result of working with ineffective leaders is that you know what not to do.

Monday, September 3, 2012

CEDO 565 Week 3: Reluctant Authority

Reluctant Authority:

I've been placed in a position of leadership that I didn't want. It's not that I shy away from leadership, just that I don't want this particular leadership position. Unfortunately (or so I seem to think), neither a new position nor a replacement has been made available at this time. Last year, I protested my position by not doing any actual leading but instead, doing work, work, work that needed to be done. Never mind the fact that the work needed to be done and that I only worked 1/2 time, I didn't go out of my way to lead. The school bumbled along just as it has in the past and I kept busy putting out fires.

Though my replacement isn't at hand I do have hope because there are now a couple of staff that I can train and hand over some of my work to, both clerical and administrative. I pray this will happen.

In thinking about the situation at my school I've come to the conclusion that as long as I am still there, I need to forget about thinking that my boss will change in such a way as to make dramatic changes in what happens at my school. I've now decided that as long as I'm there, I need to take on a larger leadership role to effect change that is within possibilities.

Image By: The Thinking Doll

Without much of a choice in the matter, I had to write a 5-year plan for our accreditation agency. It wasn't a team effort. There aren't enough people to form teams. Everyone else, including my boss, was up to their ears in other things. So, I've got this baby of an improvement plan. It's not too bad. It's needed. It's all my idea. Now I've got to run with it, with mostly an entirely new teaching staff not to mention mostly new students as well.

I like the idea in chapter 4 of the book about introducing programs with the benefits derived, not the details of the program itself. The benefits of successful implementation of the  5-year plan are potentially awesome and in a nutshell; resemblance of an achieving and functioning school.

If all goes well, I'll have the time to actually interact with my teachers and help build this school. I can already foresee some roadblocks and I will be tested. Wish me good luck skill.